For the past two years, Rosemary Dunne has been a primary caregiver for her 82-year-old mother, who has advancing dementia, and it hasn't been easy. In many ways, her life revolves around her mother: finding time to visit; sending detailed e-mails about her health to family members around the world; documenting her medical history so meticulously that she now has binders full of information.
Keeping track of it all is a challenge faced by anyone caring for an aging patient with failing health, whether it's a child caring for their own mother or a worker at a care facility – and Ms. Dunne, who is also a recreation therapist in Vancouver, has done both.
She's now drawing on that experience as she works with a team in Vancouver developing a mobile app that could offer some relief. CareCrew, which recently won a competition staged by Fraser Health, provides a platform for family members and home-care workers to stay connected when looking after their aging loved ones.
For Ms. Dunne, the app "hit the nail on the head."
"This is the first app that has all the information you need in one place," said Ms. Dunne. "People with dementia especially rely on routine, so ensuring consistency is important and the app facilitates this."
As Canada's population gets older, finding ways to provide seniors with the best possible care is becoming more urgent, and some caregivers are looking to mobile apps and other technology to cope.
The CareCrew app acts as a collaborative to-do list, where family members and home-care workers keep track of things such as administering meals and medication. It also provides a symptom tracker where health concerns can be documented and a CareChat feature for caregivers to leave direct messages to one another.
"The big problem we are trying to solve is caregiver burnout," said Christina Chiu, founder and CEO of CareCrew. "Anyone can look at the app and see what hasn't been done, what has been done and what they should be doing next."
Other plans for the app include the ability to actively notify family members of a potential medical emergency, said Ms. Chiu.
"We are designing it in the way so that it can make recommendations or recognize things that the family may not notice," she said. "Ultimately, we are trying to find as many ways to relieve some of the burden on the health-care system."
While it's primarily designed for home care, CareCrew could also benefit health-care professionals because it provides a clear record of the senior's day-to-day life, which in turn could save time when meeting with a doctor. If a senior eventually moves into residential care, the app could also come into play.
Daniel Fontaine, the CEO of the B.C. Care Providers Association, said technology is an important piece when it comes to helping people who care for seniors.
"Generally speaking, any innovation that can allow people to live comfortably and to live at home for as long as they can is a good thing," said Mr. Fontaine. "Aging at home costs less and allows more access to families."
He points to stress on family members as a major issue when it comes to taking care of seniors. A recent poll by the BCCPA and Insights West concluded that 90 per cent of British Columbians caring for a senior face some type of significant challenge.
"Whether it's not having enough time to visit mom and dad, or not being able to get any additional support, there are a lot of challenges," Mr. Fontaine said. "When we invest in seniors we invest in their families as well."
CareCrew expects to release the app later this year.